Kim Jong-un north korea.jpg
Photograph: EPA/KCNA/HANDOUT

North Korean leaders and members of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea opened the party's first congress in 36 years Friday, where leader Kim Jong Un praised the country's hydrogen bomb test in January as a success.

The country's first hydrogen bomb test strengthened "the grandeur of the country and its power," Kim said in his opening speech, which South Korea's Yonhap news agency said was shown on television.

The gathering was expected to be used by leader Kim Jong Un - the third in the Kim dynasty - to consolidate his power over the isolated, communist country.

The event was opened at central Pyonygang's April 25 House of Culture, news reports said. The theatre is named after the date when Kim's grandfather, the country's founder Kim Il Sung, is said to have former a guerilla army against the Japanese occupiers in 1932.

Streets and the riverfront in Pyongyang received a makeover ahead of the congress, the seventh of its kind, and the first since Kim came to power four and a half years ago.

The country's military "seem to be maintaining a higher state of readiness," an unnamed Defence Ministry official in Seoul was quoted as saying by South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.

The agenda for the gathering has not been released, but Kim is expected to push through more changes in the party leadership and announce new targets for economic development.

The congress appeared to be to "establish the socialist party-centered system" and consolidate Kim's regime, said Jeong Joon Hee, a spokesman at Seoul's Unification Ministry, at a press briefing on Wednesday.

The congress is expected to run for three or four days, according to the Yonhap.

A live-fire military exercise may take place during the congress, and the meeting could see Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong promoted to a minister-level post, Yonhap reported Friday.

Many countries, from Pyongyang's only major ally China to its stated enemies South Korea, Japan and the United States, are watching to see whether Kim will address the country's nuclear programme.

Nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang since the beginning of the year have raised tensions with these and other world powers.

Latest news

EU calls on Germany to reduce large current account surplus

The European Commission on Wednesday called on Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, to reduce its large current account surplus and focus on boosting domestic consumption.

Germans' demand for Croatian destinations on steady rise

Bookings for Croatia's destinations in some regions of Bavaria have been rising and some statistics show a 30% increase year-on-year, according to the preliminary information from the "f.re.e." fair for leisure and travel, which opened in Munich on Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

Bosnia's counsel travels to The Hague to apply for review of genocide judgement against Serbia

Bosnia and Herzegovina's legal representative before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Sakib Softic, left for The Hague on Wednesday and is expected to submit a request on Friday for a review of an ICJ judgement delivered in 2007 acquitting the former Social Republic of Yugoslavia, present-day Serbia as its successor, of genocide in Srebrenica.

Serbian, Slovenian FMs says two countries' relations good, economic cooperation on rise

Relations between Slovenia and Serbia are good, the two countries have a number of common interests and their trade, which last year amounted to EUR 1 billion, is on the rise, Slovenian and Serbian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec and Ivica Dacic respectively, said after their talks in Ljubljana on Wednesday.

Congo to investigate alleged massacre by army

The Congolese government Wednesday pledged to investigate an alleged massacre of unarmed men and women by the army, after initially dismissing a video claiming to show it as a fake.

Global treaty to remove customs bureaucracy comes into force

An international pact that could boost global trade by up to 1 trillion dollars per year entered into force on Wednesday, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced in Geneva.

EU seeks to fine Austria for misrepresenting debt data

The European Commission was seeking to slap a fine of close to 30 million euros (31.5 million dollars) on Austria after one of its states reported incorrect debt data to the EU's statistical office, EU Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said Wednesday.

Merkel cabinet OKs new rules easing deportation of asylum seekers

The cabinet of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday agreed a package of measures to ease the deportation of criminal asylum seekers.

Croatian crime victims still not exercising rights enjoyed by victims in other EU countries

Victims of crime in Croatia still cannot exercise the rights exercised by victims of crime in other EU member-countries, and the biggest problem is that the national legislation still does not incorporate the EU directive on the protection of victims of crime, heard a conference held in Zagreb on Wednesday on the occasion of the European Day for Victims of Crime.

Russia condemns 'fake' Western news in hall of shame on state website

Russia's Foreign Ministry introduced a new section of its website on Wednesday to condemn Western news reports with a big red stamp: "FAKE."

Report: Le Pen aides held for questioning on European Parliament jobs

Two key aides to Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate for the French presidency, have been held for questioning by police, the Agence France Presse news agency reported on Wednesday.

More than 400 exhibitors gather for boat, gastronomy shows in Zagreb

Slightly more than 400 exhibitors will present their products and services at the 26th International Boat Show and the 9th international gastronomy, hotel and catering equipment and catering show Hotel&Gastroteh, which opened at the Zagreb Trade Fair Centre on Wednesday.